Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CCTV makes people more anxious

After yesterday's suggestion that turning off street lights late at night cuts crime, here is another possibly counterintuitive idea: CCTV increases people's sense of anxiety.

In today's Guardian Anna Minton writes about a study she carried out on a Peabody Trust housing estate in central London:
What we found independently was that, although increased security, and in particular CCTV, was often very popular with residents, it did not necessarily lead to feelings of increased safety, with residents reporting that the presence of CCTV could instead increase anxiety. 
Security measures including gates and internal doors elicited a similar response, with residents illustrating that "defensible space" can increase fear of strangers. "Because of the doors, if you see someone you don't know, there is an element of 'Who is this?'" one resident commented. 
A practitioner added: "The more you secure a block or an estate, the more it gives a message that something is wrong with that estate." 
Incidents of actual crime were barely mentioned. By far the biggest problem was young people hanging around late into the night in the courtyard of the estate, which is surrounded by housing. On a number of occasions the play area had been vandalised. Because the young people in question were either residents or friends of residents, barring access to the estate through the use of gates did not seem sensible. 
The study suggested that high security was offered as a technical response to a complex social problem, which required a different kind of solution. It was clear that residents felt that "knowing people", whether it be caretakers, youth workers or each other, was the key to creating trust.

1 comment:

Simon said...

I completely agree with this. As a child who was scared of the dark it was always the case that the more my parents did to reassure me that I was safe with them the scarier the dark house seemed when they were in another room. This is surely just the same thing writ large!

You haven't said anything so far to contradict this, but just in case these two posts were going to start a bit of a trend I thought I should point out that fear of crime has been falling in this country for almost 20 years. In fact the trend in people's fear of crime follows almost exactly the trend in crime itself.

It is true that most years the majority of people say they feel that crime is on the rise, however this is something of a static trend (although interestingly it does show some variation with trends in crime itself), it does not in-fact mean that people are getting more afraid of crime, i.e. emotionally we are responding to crime as it is, even if do not in fact successfully report what is going on when asked.